A Canon PowerShot G10 (14.7 MP) with a Canon 1.4x tele-extender (35mm equivalent of 200mm) mounted to a GigaPan Epic.
The capture process, therefore, requires a plan of attack. Photographing a gigapixel composite takes time, and you don’t want to get halfway through and find out you didn’t take some critical feature into account when setting your parameters. For example, if you’re photographing a landscape with mountains, you need to set a top margin for your image that will accommodate the highest peak. The best way to define and organize your gigarama is in columns and rows. It doesn’t matter if you work horizontally or vertically, but you need to choose a pattern that you follow scrupulously throughout the multiple captures. Most compositing software prefers that the photographer begin the composite from the upper left, sequencing the captures in columns from top to bottom.
Set your camera as you would for a basic panorama: exposure at manual for the brightest area of the scene, manual focus and manual white balance. If you’re using a zoom lens, be sure it’s locked into one position; a piece of tape might be necessary to secure it to a single focal length.
The capture requires patience, skill and precision. But keep it snappy because while you move through your image, the clouds, shadows, people and wildlife will change position. We have to warn you of an occupational hazard: the need for speed and concentration will be thwarted by curious onlookers who will invariably want to ask you what you’re doing when you’re capturing a gigarama in a public location. An assistant who diverts their attention can be useful.
Displaying A Gigarama
Here’s the part where you get to amaze your friends, family and anybody on the Internet. No matter which program you used to assemble it, you can post your gigarama to the GigaPan website (www.GigaPan.org) using the GigaPan upload program. At the GigaPan site, a Google-Earth type of interface allows viewers to zoom in on the details, and a nifty snapshot feature lets you, and others who view your image, to extract interesting surprise elements that you may not have noticed before. There’s no charge for the hosting service. You can post your images on the public site or you can keep them private. There are tens of thousands of images already posted (as of this writing) for your zooming pleasure.
GigaPan software also has a format that allows you to post your gigaramas on your own website. You can see some examples at our site, www.GeorgeLepp.com.
If you have access to a large-format printer and are willing to deal with monster-sized files, you can achieve truly astounding resolution and detail with a gigarama print. The largest file you can work with as a Photoshop PSD or JPEG file is 30,000x30,000 pixels. The next size up in Photoshop CS-CS4 is the PSB format, which allows 300,000x300,000 pixels. If you wish to work with a TIFF file, the maximum size is four gigabytes. Another format for large files is Adobe Raw. There are labs out there that are willing to print by the square foot. Check to see what type of image files they require.
Keep in mind all the problems that have to be solved with a 5x20-foot print. How do you handle it, display it and protect it? In some cases, canvas is a good solution because it’s less fragile. But it weighs a ton in a really large print.